Parenting With ADHD Feels Impossible: Part 1

The past four weeks have felt insurmountably difficult. I know things will get better; I just wish I could stay in bed until they actually do.

This summer has felt more difficult than usual. I’m certain a big reason for this is because my old trusty medication regimen had to be changed up. I’m also waiting to get in to a new doctor, so every day I try to remind myself that there ARE things that can be done to make things easier. I won’t always feel like I do right this minute.

I have pretty classic ADHD — a combination of hyperactivity and inattentiveness. I manage by taking medication and seeing a therapist regularly. I meditate, exercise, learn all I can about the condition and set up my life to work WITH the kind of brain I have. It’s a process but usually the methods I employ work well. I’ve been living with myself for over forty years now, so I’ve somewhat figured out what works. There is a lot I actually LIKE about my brain. However, I think my biggest problem is accepting that I will always have to be adjusting my treatment. I’m speaking specifically about the medication I take. I was diagnosed just over ten years ago, and honestly, lately I want to scream WHY CAN’T THIS BE EASIER?!?!

I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The anxiety symptoms present in various ways. I have a short fuse and often lose my temper with those close to me. I have extreme sensory problems and am ultra sensitive to textures, temperatures, sounds, foods, smells. At times  daily life feels like entirely too much. Because of the sensory stuff, I hate crowds and often avoid situations altogether because I know I just won’t be able to deal. Basically, I have zero filters and I take everything in at the same time, which often feels paralyzingly overwhelming.

Very often, the meds I take to control the ADHD symptoms exacerbate the anxiety, and untreated anxiety can make me feel more disorganized and unfocused.

Treating the two conditions can be difficult because it’s such a delicate balance.

Add in a little extra situational stress (which is what’s been going on this summer) and getting adequate treatment is even harder.

Parenting with these conditions can be unbelievably challenging. I try to keep my tone here upbeat and hopeful, and while often I DO feel that way, lately I feel pretty dismal about the future.

I manage relatively well during the school year when my boys are in school. I work from home, and am fortunate I can arrange my schedule so I’m able to be home with them in the afternoons and on breaks. This has worked well, and though summer has always been a bit challenging, this one has been the most difficult yet.

Other people, even those who love me, do not necessarily get me, so I go through periods where I feel extremely isolated.

The boys and I went to my mom’s on Sunday. Wallace is staying with her this week and doing a day camp at a college nearby (that’s another story altogether…but he’s at her house now, and Piers and I are back home in Savannah.)

Even though my mom and I share some symptoms, and I suspect she also has ADHD, our approach to life is pretty different. She does her best to genuinely help me, but very often her attempts feel like she just wants to fix me and wishes I were normal — her definition, whatever that is.

I can’t help but become annoyed when I’m around her because she’s like a human self-help book. She’s also a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of gal. If anyone reading this has ever been depressed or in the grips of horrible anxiety, then you know how hard it is to hear overly-simplistic advice when you are struggling.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember that my mom had a severe depressive episode in 2011. She was diagnosed with major depression, but some of her symptoms were manic in nature. She spent a couple of weeks in the psychiatric hospital until she was stabilized. Then she was referred to an outpatient psychiatrist and a therapist, and she made great strides. Our relationship was better than ever, and I give her credit for working so hard AND for sticking with her treatment.

However…(you could feel it coming, couldn’t you?) about a year ago, her therapist retired. I’ll spare you all the details, but in short, Mom was not interested in finding someone new.

She also doesn’t communicate well with her psychiatrist. It was so bad that I ended up having to call for her a few months back to discuss treatment. I found this particular doctor extremely hard to talk to, and when I tried talking to both of them at the same time, it was a disaster. Mom more or less threw me under the bus and denied that anything she had shared with me was a problem. GRRRR.

So…because she doesn’t tend to her own mental health in the most effective ways, I get extremely miffed when she acts all high and mighty and insists on telling me what I need to do.

It also doesn’t help that I spent my entire childhood being told I was too sensitive and that I wasn’t applying myself in school and that I was emotionally volatile. As one of my more insightful friends from my hometown said recently, “You’re mother has been in denial about your ADHD your entire life.”

And it’s true. This last trip, she announced that she has “figured out what my problem is,” even though I was forthcoming with her and let her know I might be a bit off because I was changing medication.

She obviously didn’t hear me.

Her effusive proclamations kill me.

“You have low estrogen!”

Do what?!

Yeah, she completely ignored me when I said I had recently had a full panel of blood work done and they had looked specifically at hormone levels to rule out some physiological reasons for anxiety.

BUT…because she IS my mother, I often ignore what I know and find myself entertaining her often loopy ideas, albeit briefly, but I still allow her to jack with my head.

I mean, she’s an intelligent woman. She is not, however, a person who is good at looking at all corners for information. She has a tendency to fixate on one symptom and take something she’s read or heard and then research that one piece of the puzzle. Then boom — she makes her “diagnosis,” and if you tell her she sounds a little kooky, she gets mad and says no one takes her seriously.

Okay, there’s more to this, but this is long so I’ll continue in my next post. I’m just trying to work some stuff out in my head.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post. I use Grief Happens to work out stuff, a “first draft” kind of place and then I pull from these drafts for other writing.

I’m thinking a lot about parenting with mental illness and thinking a lot about how it informs my parenting. I guess I began writing all this about my mom because while I am often critical of her, I also find myself seeking to understand her — as a mother who had her own undiagnosed depression and anxiety but also as partner to my dad, who lived with severe suicidal thoughts and darker depression than I believe either my mom or I have much understanding of.

I look at my own children who are showing increasing signs of ADHD and anxiety, and I can’t help but examine how much of all of it is a FAMILY thing — both genetically and the reality of growing up with parents who struggle with executive function and organization.

And for me, at this moment, it all feels kind of hopeless. I feel like an incapable parent. I need a lot of help, and I have no clue what that reality looks like. I can’t say I’ve ever felt AS hopeless in terms of ADHD treatment as I do now, attempting to help my children.

I hate to end on a negative note, but I gotta run to the pharmacy.

To be continued…

I’d love to hear from any of you who have parented spirited children. How have you kept yourself level in the process? 


2 thoughts on “Parenting With ADHD Feels Impossible: Part 1

  1. Yes, I agree with Writetocure above….it’s amazing what you do, and you’re amazing! (I think I wrote that in Part 2, LOL!!!!)

    What helps me parent a spirited child? This is just a partial list.

    Sticking to my eating plan, getting out with Lucy for walks while the weather is beautiful,
    keeping my spirited one busy with a day camp she enjoys, which (BIG BUMMER) ends next week.
    I take her out on “Mommy/Daughter” excursions when her sister is having a playdate; she’s having a very rough patch as far her friendships go – that’s a blog post all its own. We’re working on it….

    Lastly, and most importantly, I have Craig take her and her sister to the pool on weekend afternoons *without me* – I am NOT into the pool scene anymore; I got burned out literally and figuratively on it. He has limited time due to a workload that also increases during the summer, but it’s a big help – plus he likes going there. :0000

    Hope you’re feeling better today, my lovely one!

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